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and you were there

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It's not hard to slip off for a while. Ruby and Sapphire are engrossed in the book that Steven brought them (made them?), Pearl's lost in her own head when she's not reminiscing with Bismuth, and Peridot...

You're not sure what Peridot's doing.

Everything feels too big and too much, no matter how much you want to shove it away and focus on the wedding (or on being a horse again because let's face it, horses are cool), but emotions are messy and they don't work that way. And you promised Steven you wouldn't vent to him because he's just a kid, he's caught up in all this even worse than you are, and none of it is his fault-

But talking about it with anyone else feels weird, too. Because you might say you're a Crystal Gem and the others might call you a Crystal Gem, but you never met the war. You never knew the Diamonds, you missed it all, popping out eons too late and too messed up to be a real Quartz soldier. And Rose never cared and normally you don't either, but now you can't help but care, because Rose was a Diamond, Rose was a liar, and that means-

You suppose it's no surprise you end up at Vidalia's.

"Yo," you say, popping your head in the garage. She's sitting there, putting a few finishing touches on a painting of a sunrise. Dolphins skim across frothy waves and you think about Sapphire.

"Amethyst!" She stands up, setting her paintbrush aside. Onion's sitting to the side, watching with enormous eyes. You don't really understand him, but you like him all the same. He's a weird kid. You appreciate weird. 

You appreciate how Vidalia deals with his weird even more.

"Can I talk with you, V?" You ask. You feel uncharacteristically flustered, the urge to shapeshift into varying creatures near overwhelming because it always provokes a laugh or a reaction, and you need that, almost more than you need to let off steam.

"Of course," she says. She looks at Onion, murmuring something you don't quite catch, and he disappears into the house. "What is it?"

"Some heavy stuff, man," you say, raking a hand through your hair. "I- Rose was Pink Diamond," you blurt out. You've told Vidalia enough about gem culture over the years, enough about the Diamonds and what led to the rebellion, for her mouth to drop open.

"That's...pretty big," she agrees cautiously. "How did you find out? Are you all right?"

"I don't know," you admit. "Pearl told- well, not exactly told, it's complicated-"

The story pours out in stops and starts. You have to tangent into what a Diamond order is and what it does to pearls and you can see anger spark in Vidalia's eyes. It is righteous anger, like when some visitor in town started making fun of Onion examining a leaf in a puddle, and Vidalia stomped over there to put an end to it. 

It is strangely validating.

"Amethyst," Vidalia begins, when you've finally poured it all out, all your doubts and confusion and anger in sharp, prickly bits, like broken glass on her driveway. "You normally sit for me, but would you like to paint?"

You stare at her.

"Uh," you say. "It'll be a mess."

Vidalia smiles, a little quirk of her mouth that you can't help but find endearing.

"I think it would help you," she says.

Five minutes later, you're standing on a tarp, stationed in front of a clean canvas. Vidalia has one across from you.

"Paint whatever you want," she tells you. "It doesn't have to be perfect. Just- paint from your heart, you know?"

You forego the brushes, preferring to dip your fingers in the cool, thick paints. As you draw lines across the white surface, you think of a Diamond choosing to become her own gem, you think of a rebellion thwarted, you think of Rose's Diamond tendencies surging the moment she crossed Pearl's hands over her lips, you think of loneliness and so many years wandering around an abandoned Kindergarten, having no idea there were other gems like you, that you weren't alone.

You think of Rose, telling you that you're perfect just the way you are. You think of Pearl and how sometimes your prickles rub together the wrong way, but then you harmonize enough to form Opal, and that's beautiful in its own way. You think of Garnet. She's Ruby and Sapphire, but she's more than that, and you almost understand it, but you're not there yet. You think of Steven. How you used to think you were the worst gem, but he showed you that you weren't. There could be no such thing. You think of Peridot, bossy and insecure. You've watched Camp Pining Hearts with her three times now and counting.

You think of Beach City. Meeting Vidalia. Hanging out with Vidalia's family, finding that sense of belonging, even though there are no gems here. There doesn't need to be.

You look down. Your painting is blobby and splotched- you don't know how to paint, really, and especially not with your fingers. But to you, it's recognisable.

"It's lovely," Vidalia says quietly, over your shoulder. You look down at your portrait of you, the rest of the Crystal Gems, and the Beach City residents you remember on the beach, the sun rising behind you all.

"Thanks," you say.

You think maybe you'll even take it back to the Temple once it's dry.